by Beth Heller MS, RYT
No, this isn't another chirpy post about the power of positive thinking or the law of attraction. While there are potential fertility benefits to both of those things, the positive I'm talking about here is the little plus on the pee stick or the positive lilt in the nurse's voice when she gives you the news that your beta hCG has just doubled. This post is also about the apprehension I've seen behind the eyes of my yoga students when they share their good news. One hurdle cleared - "I'm pregnant!" - but another looms ahead...that tenuous first trimester. This anxiety is magnified if their journey has been a long one or if a previous "positive" ended in a negative.
Having experienced multiple miscarriages and other assorted disappointments, that odd mix of joy and terror during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy is something I know way too well. I spent most of the waking hours of my first trimesters taking my basal temperature incessantly to make sure it hadn't dropped, bracing myself to see blood on the toilet paper every time I went to the bathroom and subjecting every ping I felt in my abdomen to a thorough Google search. Is there anything we can do to make this time bearable?
Absolutely. I'm assuming that you've been taking pretty good care of yourself on the road to pregnancy, so now is definitely not the time to pull off that road. Keep on doing what you've been doing to stay happy, healthy and balanced. In case you're so freaked out that you can't remember what those things were, here is a checklist for staying positive, figuratively and literally, during the first trimester:
- Practice your yoga and meditation. When a woman becomes pregnant during our six week Yoga for Fertility class, which I am happy to report happens quite frequently, we encourage her to stay with the class and the practice during her early weeks of pregnancy. Researchers hypothesize that stress may contribute to early pregnancy loss, a phenomenon they are calling Pregnancy Stress Syndrome. The immune/endocrine imbalances that result from stress may be a trigger for pregnancy loss. The good news is that population studies show that "tender-loving-care" interventions that focus on reducing stress and helping women feel supported are associated with positive pregnancy outcomes in women with history of miscarriage. As long as the yoga is gentle and the teacher is knowledgeable about what's verboten during very early pregnancy, you're good to go. If you don't feel comfortable doing yoga, find a meditation or other relaxation class to attend to keep the "ritual of relaxation" going during this time
- Exercise. Yes, I did say exercise. Note that I did not say go for a run or start power lifting, but I did say exercise. Early pregnancy is a time to stroll and smell the flowers or stretch in leisurely manner. Gentle (stress again gentle) movement will help to relieve anxiety, mediate the fatigue that often comes along with the first trimester and promote a sense of well-being. Just keep it gentle (did I stress gentle?).
- Keep eating right. You may not feel ready for the full-on prenatal nutrition consult, but it is time to contact your nutritionist and make sure that any herbal or nutritional supplements you have been taking are still appropriate during the first trimester. If you've discontinued dairy, wheat or other potential allergens, this is not the time to add them back in without the support of a skilled nutritionist, but it is time to ensure that any eliminations you have made have not created nutritional “holes” in your nutritional status.
- Keep getting your acupuncture. Traditional Chinese Medicine is very useful and has specific protocols for miscarriage prevention. At Pulling Down the Moon we recommend women receive treatment weekly during the first trimester and then continue monthly or on an as-needed basis for the remainder of the pregnancy.
- Hands on work like massage and reiki can also help you stay calm and centered. Think about how your dog or cat melts under your touch when they are anxious. Make sure, though, that your massage therapist knows that you are newly pregnant and is aware of any contraindicated techniques or points on the body that should not be manipulated during pregnancy.
- Finally, keep breathing. When the anxiety starts to creep up, take a deep inhale through your nose and let it out slowly through mouth saying silently to yourself "I'm happy, I'm healthy, I'm whole." The instinct is to hold the breath and count the days until week twelve but the reality is that staying in the flow of life will help you focus on something other than your fears. The breath is a reminder of that flow and brings you back to center.
Stay present, stay peaceful, stay positive. It will be trimester-two before you know it! Beth
Note: Before applying any techniques described in this or any other nutrition, exercise or holistic program an individual should always consult and obtain professional medical advice, including from their doctor.